Update, February 2021: PS5 review, 3 months later
Sony launched its most ambitious console to date on Nov. 12, 2020 with the PS5. The company dominated the last generation with the PS4 and silenced naysayers who said that console gaming was dead. After selling upwards of 112 million units over the last seven years, Sony hopes to replicate its success with the PlayStation 5, and if early demand is any indication, that shouldn't be a problem. If you're looking to buy a PS5, just be aware that the demand is immense right now, and it could be a while before you're able to find one in stock.
Ever since I was a kid I've had an Xbox. I played every Xbox console right up until I have to buy a PS4 Pro for this job, but now that I've used a PS5 for a few months, I don't think I'll be going back.
However, the strength of the PS5, plus the revolutionary and welcome changes Sony made to the DualSense controller, will put it over the edge as my favorite console. That just shows how good a job Sony has done to win me over.
While I only had access to a standard PS5 and a DualSense controller for this review, Sony has also released the PS5 Digital Edition that people may also want to check out. It's the exact same console as its counterpart, specs and all, minus the disc drive.
At a glance
Bottom line: Sony took everything that made the PS4 great and doubled down to create a truly impressive console. The focus on immersion is immediately apparent with the DualSense controller, which is a standout accessory for the machine. From lightning-fast loading and seamless transitions thanks to its SSD to new features like Game Help, Sony has raised the bar once again.
- Lightning-fast SSD
- New Control Center and Activity cards
- Solid launch lineup
- Efficient cooling and whisper-quiet fan
- DualSense is phenomenal
- Only 825GB of storage
- A difficult to use base
- Dimensions are quite large
PS5 review: Price and availability
The PS5 and PS5 Digital Edition released for $499 and $399, respectively, on November 12, 2020 in several countries before becoming available worldwide a week later on November 19, 2020.
Though popular retailers like Amazon, Walmart, Best Buy, and GameStop receive more stock every few weeks or so, they sell out almost instantly. If you're looking to buy a PS5, you could be left waiting for several months until stock levels out.
PS5 review: Specs, design, and performance
|Processor||8x Cores @ 3.5GHz Custom Zen 2 CPU|
|Graphics||10.28 TFLOPS, 36 CUs @ 2.23 GHz Custom RDNA 2|
|Memory||16 GB GDDR6, 256-bit|
|Internal Storage||825GB Custom NVMe SSD|
|I/O Throughput||5.5GB/s (Raw), 8-9GB/s (Compressed)|
|Expandable Storage||NVMe SSD slot|
|External Storage||USB external HDD support|
|Resolution||Target 4K, up to 8K|
|Frame rate||Target 60FPS, up to 120FPS|
|Backward compatibility||Yes (PS4)|
|Optical Drive||4K UHD Blu-Ray drive|
|Dimensions||15.3in x 4.1in x 10.2in|
When Sony unveiled the design of the PS5, it was contentious among fans. It was a far cry from the giant rectangle that's the Xbox Series X and the traditional PlayStation lineup. The two-toned console sports a more futuristic look, with an inner black portion surrounded by two white shells encompassing either side, almost like a reverse Oreo. The PS5 is also hiding some neat little touches on the hardware that you may miss if you don't look carefully. On the inside of the white faceplates, you can see the Square, Triangle, Circle, and X symbols that create a textured pattern. This also appears on the DualSense controller. It's a neat little touch that marries form and function, though I'm worried about how easily dirt and grime will collect over periods of heavy use.
It's way larger than some people expected (maybe even too large for some entertainment centers), but it's packing some impressive hardware that needs a powerful and efficient cooling system to keep it running.
The back features two high-speed USB Type-A ports, an HDMI port, a LAN connection, and the power supply. The front sports another high-speed USB Type-A port along with a USB-C port. Sony ships the console with an HDMI 2.1 cable in the box so it can support up to 120Hz. What it lacks is a dedicated SSD expansion slot like the Xbox Series X. Instead you'll need to open up the console to add a compatible NVMe SSD card internally. Given that the PS5 only comes with an 825GB SSD, 667.2GB of which was usable in my case, you'll need an additional card sooner rather than later. In a rather perplexing move, the PS5 won't support extended storage for PS5 games at launch. This functionality will instead be added in a future update.
From the start screen to actual gameplay, Spider-Man: Miles Morales loads in just two seconds. In fact, the game is devoid of any loading screens. While some of the backward compatible games I played still took a decent chunk of time to load, particularly Assassin's Creed Odyssey, the load times were noticeably reduced, almost by half in nearly all instances. The odd one out was No Man's Sky, which still took over a minute to load in on both PS5 and PS4 Pro.
From a backward-compatible game's start menu to playing the game:
|Loading Speed Test||PS5 (SSD)||PS4 Pro (HDD)|
|Assassin's Creed Odyssey||43.60 seconds||1:18.55 minutes|
|The Outer Worlds||26.09 seconds||1:02.78 minutes|
|Control||23.79 seconds||43.38 seconds|
|Horizon Zero Dawn||40.91 seconds||2:04.64 minutes|
|Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order||19.58 seconds||25.39 seconds|
|No Man's Sky||1:07.65 minutes||1:08.29 minutes|
From the PS5 home screen to a game's start menu:
|Loading Speed Test||PS5 (SSD)||PS4 Pro (HDD)|
|Assassin's Creed Odyssey||40.35 seconds||59.52 seconds|
|The Outer Worlds||26.31 seconds||58.38 seconds|
|Control||43.26 seconds||59.35 seconds|
|Horizon Zero Dawn||24.44 seconds||45.90 seconds|
|Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order||53.25 seconds||1:25.95 minutes|
|No Man's Sky||16.37 seconds||29.01 seconds|
As we've seen with some first-party games already, it looks like patches can drastically reduce their load times even further on older hardware. On PS4 Pro, The Last of Us Remastered went from loading in over a minute to loading in just 14 seconds. This bodes well for what the PS5 can do when games are optimized for it.
Spider-Man: Miles Morales loads in just two seconds.
Unfortunately, it looks like the PS5 does not have Quick Resume between multiple games the way the Xbox Series X does. People speculated that the Switcher function in the Control Center would act as Quick Resume, but it ends up fully closing your previous game instead of suspending it, meaning you can't hop between games seamlessly and pick up right where you left off.
A powerful SSD like this brings a lot of heat, so it was important for Sony to nail its cooling system. The PS4 Pro earned itself a reputation for sounding like a jet engine, and many worried that the PS5 would follow suit. My PS5 fan was whisper quiet — quieter than even my Verizon FiOS cable box. Even after hours of use, I never heard the fan pick up speed. The back of the console does get hot like you'd expect, but the fan does a good job at keeping most of the system cool. As long as it's doing its job and it's quiet, most people will be satisfied.
It's hard to get a good sense of just how quiet it is from the above audio clip, but it truly sounds like nothing at all. I placed my microphone up close to both consoles — about 6 inches away from the front of each — and I took a few samples of my PS4 Pro and PS5 running Days Gone. You can noticeably hear the PS4 Pro fan pick up speed and it sounds much louder. Turn down the volume on your computer or mobile device and you may not hear the PS5 fan at all. The PS5 stays at a consistent quiet level and never gets any louder. If my microphone were just a few feet away, you wouldn't hear the PS5.
I won't go so far as to call it a design flaw, but needing a separate base for the PS5 (included in the box), no matter which orientation you set it in, is less than ideal. It's easy enough to clip on when you want to place the console horizontally, but it needs a screw and flathead screwdriver to secure it if you want to stand it up vertically. The screw is hidden within the base and I wish I were joking, but the directions tell you to "use a coin or similarly shaped object" to tighten it. Regardless of whether or not you find this process annoying, it's silly nonetheless.
Once the base is attached, I found it surprisingly sturdy. I stood it up and pushed the console several times to see where the tipping threshold was, and it doesn't look like it'll fall over because of an accidental bump. You'd need to give it a pretty forceful shove for it to topple over.
PS5 review: Games, features, and software
There's been some talk of diminishing returns for years in regards to how advanced games can be. The more advanced technology gets in regards to game visuals, the less we'll be aware of any noticeable differences. There comes a time when, visually, these "improvements" are imperceptible from what came before — or, at the very least, not stark enough to matter. Looking at a side-by-side of Spider-Man: Miles Morales on PS4 Pro and PS5, you can see the differences, though I'm not sure they're so stark that it warrants an entirely new console. The game running on PS4 Pro still looks damn good.
However, I did find impressive graphics in Godfall, a new looter slasher from Counterplay Games. This is the technical showcase I was hoping for in terms of graphics. Its hardware-accelerated ray tracing is in full effect, illuminating the environments in a jaw-dropping way. If this is what the PS5 can pull off at launch, I'm extremely excited for the likes of Horizon Forbidden West and the God of War sequel.
With PS5 backward compatibility, you can play almost every PS4 game you own. The system in place isn't as good as Microsoft's solution for backward compatibility, but I'm satisfied with how it runs. I tested out Assassin's Creed Odyssey, The Outer Worlds, and Control, to name just a few games, and they all ran spectacularly.
On launch day, the PS5 will release with exclusives like Spider-Man: Miles Morales, Astro's Playroom, Demon's Souls, Godfall, and Sackboy: A Big Adventure. Compared to the list of Xbox exclusives at launch, which lost Halo: Infinite, it's a strong list, if a little sparse.
PS5 review: DualSense controller
The DualSense is every bit as revolutionary Sony claimed it would be. I've been outspoken about how much I hated the DualShock lineup of controllers, so to get me to praise the DualSense was a tall order. Ergonomics make or break a game controller, and the DualShock 4 lacked any basic sense of good design in that category. The DualSense, by comparison, is nearly perfect.
Haptic feedback and adaptive triggers enable a level of immersion otherwise impossible to obtain. Haptic feedback adds granular changes to the way the vibration motors in the DualSense function so they're more precise. Adaptive feedback adds tension and resistance to the triggers depending on what you are doing, a common example given is being able to feel the triggers resist your press as you draw a bowstring. These features can be adjusted, or completely turned off, in the console's system settings.
The DualSense is every bit as revolutionary as Sony claimed.
Sony's engineers worked magic to make the DualSense's haptic feedback and adaptive triggers as incredible as they are, in a way that's hard to convey over words alone. It's something you just need to feel. Walking through the rain in Astro's Playroom (which was designed as a DualSense showcase, to be fair) felt like my controller was actually being pelted by rain, drop by drop, due to its haptics. This sensation was aided by its built-in microphone echoing the sound of rain pattering against a window, only adding to the level of immersion. When the rain changed to hail, I could feel subtle differences in the way my controller vibrated.
Likewise, the tension and resistance you can get from the triggers are equally impressive. There's a section in Astro's Playroom where Astro hops into the suit of a robotic monkey and starts to effectively rock climb. I could feel the trigger resisting in a way that mimicked the force I'd need to pull myself up.
Sony's engineers worked magic to make the DualSense's haptic feedback and adaptive triggers as incredible as they are.
In Spider-Man: Miles Morales, there's a little jolt that happens when you thwip your web and are swinging through the air. The varying levels of tension are subtle, almost imperceptible in this case, but are definitely there. Even if just first-party Sony games take full advantage of these features, it'll be worth it.
With an internal battery at 1,500mAh, the DualSense certainly outlasts the DualShock 4. No doubt this is due to its larger battery size and the design of the lightbar, which now wraps around the touchpad in a less obtrusive way. You can even adjust the brightness of the lightbar in the PS5's settings, but it cannot be turned off completely. After properly testing out how long it lasted on a single charge, my DualSense made it almost exactly 14 hours before I needed to plug it in, three of which were spent in Astro's Playroom, which puts the haptics to heavy use. Depending on which games you play and which settings you have enabled on the controller, I'd wager you can easily get 15+ hours out of it.
PS5 review: User interface and OS
The PS5 user interface is similar to the one found on the PS4, focusing on providing a clean look and seamless experience. There a dedicated section for the fully integrated PlayStation Store, along with sections for Games and Media. Foregoing themes at launch, the background of your dashboard will instead change depending on which game you currently have pulled up.
The newly integrated PlayStation Store is a treat. There are sections for the Latest Games, Collections, Subscriptions, and a place to browse. In any of these sections, you're also free to select whether you want to view PS5, PS4, free-to-play, or PS Plus games. I found it easy to navigate and responsive to my controller inputs. Overall, Sony did a great job of integrating the store, even if the PS5 games section is a bit sparse at the moment. There's even a wishlist feature that was sadly dropped from the PlayStation Store on PS4.
What the store removes now are dedicated sections for add-ons, movies and TV shows, apps, themes (because they aren't supported at launch), and deals. For PlayStation Plus exclusive deals, you'll need to navigate to the PlayStation Plus section. I understand why movies and TV shows were moved because there's now a new dedicated section for Media outside of the PlayStation Store, but it seems odd to remove spaces for add-ons and deals, at least from what I can tell. There's a row under Latest that showcases options to "Expand your games," but right now it's only showing Fall Guys add-ons with no way to expand and search for other game add-ons.
Jumping over to the media section, you'll notice it automatically pulls up TV & Video apps first, displaying some of the most popular services like Netflix, Disney+, Amazon Prime, Hulu, and more in a row at the top. Should you wish to search through all of its app offerings, you can slide on over to the left under All Apps to view its music, video, and VR apps. To easily get to all of your downloaded apps, you'll slide over to the right under App Library. It's all fairly intuitive and I like how everything is laid out.
What ends up being a shining star is the new and improved Control Center, pulled up with just a quick press of the PS button on your controller. This grants you easy access to some of the most important and widely used features on the PS5 like the power, sound, notifications, friends list, and more.
When pulling up the Control Center, you'll also notice new Activities cards depending on the game you're in. These cards show everything from official news, newly created screenshots or videos, and progress indicators for individual levels. By selecting a particular card, you can jump directly into that level of a game.
In these Activities cards, if you have PS Plus, you'll also notice official Game Help. Game Help on PS5 allows PlayStation Plus members to access official game guides and view hints to help them in certain games, which can then be pulled up in picture-in-picture modes or pinned to the side. Demon's Souls, for example, will launch with over 180 Game Help videos. It's an amazing accessibility feature that, counter to what it should be, isn't accessible for everyone. I understand that Sony wants to sell PlayStation Plus subscriptions, but locking this feature behind a paid subscription isn't good for most users.
As for other accessibility features, voice dictation works like a charm. Players can also enable chat transcription, closed captions, a screen reader, and change the display settings to reduce motion, invert colors, enlarge the text size, and more. When you combine this with other settings like the ability to change your default game preferences (difficulty, first or third-person views, performance or resolution modes, and subtitles and audio), it makes for an all-around wonderful experience.
PS5 review What does the future hold?
Now for the elephant in the room. Sony just doesn't have the same type of ecosystem that Microsoft has cultivated with Xbox. Services like Xbox Game Pass blow PlayStation Now out of the water. It doesn't seem like there are plans to try and compete either. CEO Jim Ryan has stated that the company will not put $100 million games on subscription services, referring to how all Xbox exclusives launch into Xbox Game Pass the day they release at retail. This includes games like Gears 5 and Halo: Infinite, along with eventually Bethesda's Starfield and The Elder Scrolls VI (which could also very well be an Xbox exclusive).
Sony just doesn't have the same type of ecosystem that Microsoft has cultivated with Xbox.
It also doesn't have a competitor for Project xCloud streaming via Game Pass. There's Remote Play, letting you stream your games to PC or mobile devices, but you need to own those games in your library. Until Sony figures out what it wants from PlayStation Now, it'll be stuck in the shadow of Xbox Game Pass.
Sony seems to be banking heavily on its exclusives. The second God of War is coming later in 2021, Final Fantasy 16 appears to be a PS5 console exclusive, at least at launch, and we're getting Horizon Forbidden West next year as well. Those all come from beloved franchises — some of which are highly regarded as being the best in the business. We'll have to see though if exclusives are enough to help the PS5 coast through this generation.
PS5 Final thoughts
After spending just two weeks with the PS5, I can't go back to my PS4 Pro. It's earned a permanent place on my entertainment stand for the foreseeable future, and it's something that I think PlayStation fans will love. My few complaints are easy to overlook when I've been having a blast with it and it's just so good at what it does. Games run buttery smooth and the SSD is a marvel, pulling off top performance without overheating the console due to a powerful — and super quiet — fan.
The DualSense itself is outstanding, becoming what I would consider one of the best controllers ever made. Its revolutionary haptics are something I hope all controllers employ going forward. I do wish it had longer battery life, it is leaps and bounds better than the DualShock 4. Most importantly for me, it's comfortable to hold for extended periods of time, which I could not say the same for its predecessor.
Sony made some disappointing decisions here — having just an 825GB internal SSD with no way to expand it at launch, not supporting Quick Resume between multiple games, getting rid of folders and themes for the time being — but I'm incredibly happy with the product that launched.
It'd also be remiss of me not to mention the world in which it launched, however. With the COVID-19 pandemic decimating the workforce globally and forcing millions out of jobs, it's hard to justify a $500 or even $400 purchase this holiday. If you have the money, I'd absolutely recommend picking up a PS5. As it stands, if you're short on cash you might be better serviced with your current PS4. And if you have neither but are looking to pick up a new system, I do think it's worth that extra cash to spend it on a PS5 if you need a console.
A phenomenal console with outstanding features
Sony took everything that made the PS4 great and doubled down to create a truly impressive console. The focus on immersion is immediately apparent with the DualSense controller, which is a standout accessory for the machine. From lightning-fast loading and seamless transitions thanks to its SSD to new features like Game Help, Sony has raised the bar once again.
PS5 review, 3 months later
It's been a little over three months since Sony released the PS5. In that time the company has fixed a host of PS5 bugs and issues but the console still isn't perfect.
Through several updates over the past few months, Sony has fixed pretty much every major issue facing the PS5, from problems transferring data to the incorrect versions of games downloading. One notable problem it hasn't fixed yet is DualSense drift. Similar to what plagued the Nintendo Switch, players have found that the analog stick on the DualSense will sometimes register movement when none if being made. I personally haven't encountered this issue, but some of my coworkers have. It's unclear how widespread this issue is, but it's become big enough that a class action lawsuit was filed against Sony.
I won't only focus on the negatives when it comes to the DualSense, because it's also proven how much it elevates every game that uses its functionality to its fullest. No Man's Sky received an update that added haptic feedback and adaptive trigger support, making it feel like a completely different game when you're playing it. Some games don't go all the way with this support, like Control, but what we've seen so far in three months is that developers are willing to put in the work to get these features working. As time goes on, I only anticipate this support to rise.
Sony has fixed pretty much every major issue facing the PS5.
What I think is inexcusable at this point is that Sony still has not added support for expanded internal SSDs. It is ridiculous that we are three months out from launch and I still have to be content with its dinky 825GB SSD, with only 667.2GB of usable space. That's a handful of PS5 games. Simply put: PS5 SSD storage expansion right now is a mess and Sony needs to fix it.
The PS5 supports Sony's PSVR model on the market, but the company did announce its PSVR 2 headset recently. Very few details were given, but we now know that it will connect with a single cable, feature enhanced resolution and field of view, and use a new set of controllers that incorporate tech found in the DualSense. Though it won't be releasing any time soon — at least not this year — this bodes well for the future of VR on PS5.
When it comes to the system's user interface, everything has stayed the same since its launch. I personally like it even though I know some people prefer Microsoft's approach, keeping the Xbox Series X UI the same as the Xbox One. What this also means for the PS5 is that we don't have folders or themes yet. Considering that these are frequently requested, I'd have to imagine Sony is working on implementing them sooner rather than later. But as of right now they're nowhere to be found on PS5, and that's a bummer.
I'm also happy to report that my PS5 is just as quiet as it has been since day one and I haven't had any problems with the fans going berserk or the system overheating. I know that was a major concern for a lot of folks who didn't think a week of testing initially was nearly enough.
Now for the elephant in the room: PS5 restocks. This isn't a complaint with the console itself, but it's impossible to discuss the PS5 without mentioning it. While the PS5 has sold nearly 5 million units, it can't keep up with demand. PlayStation boss Jim Ryan has stated that Sony is doing its best to increase production as it works with manufacturers across the globe. As for a timetable when we could see frequent PS5 stock, it's difficult to say as Ryan couldn't commit to a date.
All thing's considered I think the PS5 is in a great place. The pandemic has surely slowed down game development, but the company seems committed to launching Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart and Horizon Forbidden West later this year. For being just three months out from its worldwide release, I'm happy with where it's at even if there's definitely room to grow.
Seriously, Sony, add expanded storage as soon as possible.
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